What does it mean that you can buy a t-shirt, a onesie, a tote bag, a bib; even a house decal that announces, “What happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s?”
OK; beyond the fact that we can now take a phrase and print it on pretty much anything that can hold still. (It will therefore not be stamped on an actual baby’s bottom.)
Call it bonding, call it a little harmless passive aggression toward the new ogres, the parents — the attitude is something like, I have put in my time as a disciplinarian, and now, dammit, grandmas just want to have fuu’uuu’un!
Obviously, this approach does not work with toddlers, who cannot be trusted to keep a secret. It’s most appealing for the primary school set, who can appreciate the thrill of a rule broken, and who are not yet involved with prohibitions concerning things like porn or drugs. The unauthorized dessert, the late bedtime, the movie with the wrong rating: what, after all, is the harm?
This end run around the parents may also be related to the fact that we, the disciplinarians of yore, are likely at a time in our lives when options are more likely to be closing down than opening up. So kicking up our heels can feel great. Our grandkids become our partners in family-friendly vice. Just a little bit like Vegas, baby.
The argument that post-menopausal women help to produce more offspring has been around for long time. But a study of 18th and 19th century Finnish and Canadian farm families (stable populations with excellent record-keeping) puts numbers behind this aren’t we helpful idea.
Women whose mothers were alive began having children 2.4 years earlier than women whose mothers had died. (Was this because their mothers were nagging them about getting married? The records don’t say.)
Both men and women who had a post-reproductive mother living with them, produced more children and experienced fewer childhood mortalities. Interestingly, this difference in childhood mortality connected to Grandma’s presence only kicks in after the age of two, which implies that, for the first two years, a child is the responsibility of its mother.
It also helps more if Grandma is relatively young. “Grandchild survival to adulthood is enhanced by 12% when grandmothers are under 60 at their birth, but by only 3% when grandmothers are over this age.”